Gun-control: what happened to addressing ‘root causes’?
December 18, 2012, 8:15 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Where gun control opponents (such as myself, unless of course by ‘gun control’ you just mean ‘two hands’) must acknowledge that gun control proponents have a point is the fact that guns are simply far more efficient at killing people than other typical means. One can pose the Problem Of Violence as something like the following:

(#incidents) x (damage per incident)

in which case it’s fair to say that reasonable gun control opponents are simply focusing on minimizing the latter. This, on the face of it, is not a crazy thing to try to do and a pro-gun failure to acknowledge that risks losing in the court of public opinion due to its apparent tone-deaf response to mass murders like Sandy Hook.

Let’s expand the Problem by noting that whether/when incidents occur depends on, say, desire and opportunity or rather, success rate:

(desire) x (success%) x (damage per incident)

Again, anyone genuinely concerned about violence needs to think about reducing at least one of the above terms. And again, gun control is about focusing on the last term, holding the other two constant or at least assuming they are exogenous and uncontrollable.

But that choice strikes me as a matter of taste. Why is damage per incident the only, or even best, term to focus on? I get that there are people who think so. But that is a function of one’s preferred/instinctive approach to the problem, and one’s mileage may vary.

Well, mine does. Because my interest lies not in the last term above, which I think is simply a function of technology and individual empowerment. The more of either you have, the more damage per incident you’re likely to see. Guns will get better. If you ‘control’ guns, worse things will come to light. You are trying to clamp down on technology and access to it. I see that as a tradeoff and I’m not inclined to give much on the technology or individual empowerment fronts. Why should I be?

Now what about the second term. Controlling the second term would seem to involve things like heightened security and surveillance, increased crowd control and more restricted access to this place or that. This is how we get lockdown schools with metal detectors and RFID chips around students’ necks. All of which I understand, but on balance, I dislike this approach as well.

But the first term – this recurrent desire to mass-murder strangers we are seeing – genuinely seems worth thinking about! Moreover, there’s no important tradeoff as far as I can tell. It’s not as if, in figuring out a good way to reduce that desire, we’d be losing something interesting or important or beautiful or beneficial. It would be all-upside, as far as I can tell.

So, all things considered: I’m most interested in the first term. Why do these guys periodically surface who have a desire to mass-murder? That’s an interesting question to me. It seems worth pursuing and trying to address. Reducing the damage/incident term strikes me as a rounding-error compared to that.

But gun-control advocates effectively ignore the ‘desire’ question. It seems to me that in doing so, they leave themselves open to the same charges of callousness and non-responsiveness that they level against gun-control-opponents whenever an incident like this happens. There is simply no interest in trying to figure out why these things happen and trying to address that. It’s just all about the means. Isn’t that short-sighted? Couldn’t one see that, indeed, as aiming at the symptoms without trying to address the underlying disease? Treating a cancer with aspirin?

The other interesting thing is that this is all a total inversion of the conversation that takes place regarding (foreign) terrorism. In that case, it’s the left which wants to explore and understand and address ‘root causes’, and it’s the right which says ‘who cares their reasons, let’s just squash/prevent/kill terrorists’. So there is a double-standard – the right side of which, by the way, I will totally defend in both cases. What I wonder is, why does the gun-control left adhere to this double-standard? What happened to ‘root causes’?

3 Comments so far
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Good point about the contradiction in the left’s public pronouncements here.

I would argue that the left certain does wish to control the desire term. That’s called “we need more education”. Leftist public education, written by academics, vetted by the media, and served up to your children by the finest unionized state employees money can buy. Perhaps if only another thousand hours of sensitivity training were required of all free men, they would lose the desire to murder children.

Comment by Dave

Good point. You’re probably right that the left would say they are too trying to address root causes, because ‘education’ or some such. And I’m just guilty of not taking their approach seriously – after all, the current nature of education for example appears to me to be part of the problem, not the solution

Comment by Sonic Charmer

[…] Charmer (who has a blog I dig) nails one of the most annoying things about “gun control […]

Pingback by Chuckle of the Day: “Root Causes” | Rotten Chestnuts

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